Bulldozers on every corner establish the business
of destruction, but the port crams with grandmothers
and parcels wrapped and tied with spectacular ribbons,
so Aileen imagines from exile. She rebuilds streets
in her cupboard where any hint of light is a highlight:
memories of ice-cream dripping from cone to slip-on,
summer afternoons of crab football and skipping.
Aileen counts hairs on her head to pass time, working
her way from root to root, as God does universally
with bewildering compassion. Her cupboard has space
enough to stretch out and sleep. In others, children stand
like horses or hang upside-down like bats from hangers.
She believes grandmothers will arrive with gifts
and there will be a new heaven and a new earth.
Children will walk to school again, fearing neither
the drip of concrete and glass from permanent cloud
nor sudden immolation from journalists wielding
blowtorches as they once wielded typewriters.
Grim landowners will abandon viral promotion
of plastic crabgrass; their scorched earth policy
will yield only irises of sweet-smelling smoke.
Aileen never knows whether she is awake or asleep.
An ocean of people – swimmers? drowners? –
bob in her thoughts. It is too dark to identify
faces or know whether a state of thought is home
enough for them. Water knocks against the pier –
from these double doors, countless waves away.
catch a fire prompts for June 2009: grandmother, crabgrass, exile, root, ocean
•••Rob A. Mackenzie lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. A pamphlet, The Clown of Natural Sorrow, was published by HappenStance Press in 2005. His first full collection, The Opposite of Cabbage, was published by Salt in March 2009. He blogs at Surroundings.